(Occupied Palestinian Territory/Italy/Jordan/Sweden/Turkey)
Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10)
How important is a film’s title in relation to its premise? That may seem like a strange question, but it’s one that’s surprisingly relevant where this Palestinian release is concerned. Writer-director Ameen Nayfeh’s debut feature about a separated Palestinian family living on two sides of the dividing wall between Israel and the Occupied Territory – a metaphorically cavernous 200 meters apart – starts off as a domestic drama about the challenges of such a difficult lifestyle, one characterized by the dynamics of “so close yet so far,” a theme seemingly reinforced by the picture’s title. However, as quickly becomes apparent, the story turns into an unexpected (and eminently dangerous) long-distance road trip tale involving a desperate attempt by the family’s father figure (Ali Suliman) to reunite with his relatives on the Israeli side of the border when an unforeseen tragedy occurs. Ordinarily this would be a generally manageable undertaking, but it’s prohibited in this case by a legal technicality that prevents dad from leaving the Occupied Territory. While this narrative has a legitimate viability all its own, it nevertheless deviates widely from the picture’s initial setup, taking viewers down a divergent path filled with an array of tangents unrelated to the principal storyline. It raises issues disparate from its assumed plot and introduces a plethora of characters who have nothing to do with the protagonist’s kindreds. To its credit, the film presents a candid portrayal of the myriad difficulties of everyday life for those living under such tightly controlled circumstances, raising serious questions related to Israeli contentions regarding matters of democracy and equality, notions with undeniable merit. But, as all this unfolds, audiences can’t help but wonder when the picture is going to get back to its original intent. Some of the characters’ motivations in this story aren’t always made as clear as they could be, either, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with the prevailing political and social conditions depicted in this film. And, ultimately, one might feel somewhat misled by all this, despite whatever noteworthy issues the film raises. “200 Meters” is by no means a bad film; it’s just not the one that I (and probably others) expected to see when I began screening it. It’s strange to think that something as simple as a title change might have worked wonders in making this work more impressive and satisfying.